Adolescent Girls: Early Puberty, Negative Peer Influence, and Problem Behaviors

Sylvie Mrug, PhD Departments of Psychology and Health Behavior University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama;MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Sylvie Mrug, PhD
Departments of Psychology and Health Behavior
University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama;

 

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Mrug: Experiencing early puberty and having a best friend who misbehaves at age 11 both contribute to more aggressive and delinquent behavior in adolescent girls. Although most of these effects are transient and disappear by age 16, early maturing girls are at risk for continually higher delinquent behavior. Early puberty also seems to make girls more vulnerable to negative peer influences.

MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Mrug: Most of the main findings were not surprising, but it was somewhat unexpected that many of the effects of early puberty and friend’s problem behavior dissipated over the 5-year follow up period.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Mrug: First, the study shows that it may not be unusual for early maturing girls to show more problem behaviors in early adolescence, but that most of these problem behaviors will decrease over time. Second, the behavior of children’s and teens’ friends matters, and limiting friendships with peers who misbehave may help prevent problem behavior in the child. Third, girls who start puberty earlier than others are more vulnerable and may benefit from greater support and protection from their parents and other important people in their lives.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Mrug: The findings indicate that it is important to evaluate the long-term effects of various risk factors for problem behavior, including early puberty and deviant friends. We also do not have solid understanding of why and how early puberty increases behavioral and emotional problems in girls, so more research on the mechanisms behind these effects is needed.

 

Citation:

Early Puberty, Negative Peer Influence, and Problem Behaviors in Adolescent Girls

Sylvie Mrug, Marc N. Elliott, Susan Davies, Susan R. Tortolero, Paula Cuccaro, and Mark A. Schuster

Pediatrics peds.2013-0628; published ahead of print December 9, 2013, doi:10.1542/peds.2013-0628